Moodabidri – A thousand pillar basadi

The road meanders through lush fields bordered by coconut and palm trees . The bamboo stalks greet you as a collage of green and blue meets the eye. The rivers give us company.A hanging bridge appears out of nowhere dangling precariously above the fields.One nondescript hamlet follows another. Occasionally a noisy town appears and then merges into a dusty village. There is nothing unusual about this journey, except that it is steeped in heritage.

We are driving down from Mangalore towards Sringeri . Flanked by the western ghats this picturesque road takes you on a pilgrimage . A confluence of the spiritual and the historic, this region is dotted with temples and basadis that speak of various rulers , their spiritual beliefs and the art and architecture they left behind for posterity .

A 40 minute drive from Mangalore takes us to Moodabidri , the Jain Kashi of the South as its called. The noon sun was at its best and the town seemed to be engrossed in a deep slumber. A seat of Jain culture and architecture, this town has been the seat of several dynasties that promoted Jainism for more than 500 years. A strong testimony to this lies in the Basadis or Jain temples which were built here and Moodabadri alone boasts of 18 of them. We wanted to see at least one of them and we decided on a 700 year old Basadi .

A detour from the main highway leads us to Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani basadi or the crest jewel of the three worlds. It is indeed a jewel of architectural splendor and genius.. The locals and the tourist books refer to it as the thousand pillar temple or the Savira Kambada Basadi. There is no records here , but we heard that it was built at the instance of local chieftain , Devaraya Wodeyar in the 15th century, the basadi houses a tall bronze image of Lord Chandranatha Swami, the 8th Tirthankara . The thousand pillar basadi is a three storey symmetric structure and looks like poetry carved in granite .

A huge wooden carved door opens to a fifty five feet tall single pillar called called the Manasthamba that greets us right at the entrance . A couple of ladders are perched here and there.We realize some restoration work has been in progress. There was a deep silence and not a soul was around. I was talking to my mother in Tamil when someone from behind asked me in the same language if I wanted a guide. I swirled around in surprise to find Chandra, a local who was once working as a waiter in Chennai. He took over from there and gave me a glimpse into the heritage of Moodabidri and the traditions of Jainism .

The first thing I learnt that the name Moodabidri was derived from the bamboo that was grown in these parts. Chandra told us that Bidiru meant bamboo and Moodu meant east . For the travellers from west, this thicket of bamboo was called Moodabidri . It had royal patronage as it was the capital of the Chowter dynasty who ruled over Tulunadu for over 70 years. They patronized Jainism and even today a 900 palace with beautifully engraved pillars and ornate ceilings stands as a testimony to their reign

As we enter the portals of the basadi it opens into a large ornate hall with a beautiful flooring and carved pillars . Chandra points out that the flooring is about 600 years old and it looks like it has been restored recently.The three storey structure which was patronized by the king was supported by the wealthy merchants and town councilors and still today stands as an epitome of a townโ€™s homage to Jainism .The monolithic Manasthambha built by Queen Nagala Devi, queen of Bhairava Raja installed at a later date is about fifty five feet feet high.

We walk around the basadi and see more beautiful sculptures gazing at us from various angles. There are seven mandapas supported by several pillars , all symmetrical. Chandra points out that no two pillar is actually the same .

Each mandapa is supported by a multitude of pillars which have their own unique designs carved in granite .Elaborately carved figures of chauri-bearers, drummers jostle for space with elephants , giraffes , dragon and yalis or tigers . Chandra told us that this is an indication of the trade and relationship between the Jain merchants and foreign countries.

The sloping red roof with carved posts in copper and granite with wooden bars create a stark picture against the bright blue sky . Heads of snakes stand out at every corner .. The lawns are littered with the belongings of the laborers who have taken a lunch break. Chandra takes us inside to see the bronze idol of the deity and a moment lapses in just awe and wonder.

We sit down on the grass as the sun softens its stance .there are no tourists or pilgrims, just us, Chandra and a few laborers . The shrill cry of the birds interrupt our reverie. Chandra plays the perfect tourist guide. He says there is more to see in Moodabidri, the ancient monastery, one of the oldest basadis , the 12th century Guru basadi, the Gowri temple, ..We wanted to linger, but our destination was elsewhere. We promised Chandra that we would be back . We have a tryst with ancient Jainism.

Getting there
Moodabadri is about 37 kms from Mangalore and it is ideal to go on a day trip by road Buses ply on this route as well. The main tourist attractions are the Guru basadi, thousand pillar basadi, Chowta palace and the Jain monastery . In most places, you would need to pay some money for photography, though there are not any official boards announcing the same. There are no official guides as well, but locals like Chandra are a plenty and most of the time., the information is quite raw, but interesting.


  1. backpakker 15 May, 2008 at 11:48 Reply

    Arun – You are an early bird..am still posting pictures..pressed the publish button instead of preview ๐Ÿ™‚
    I was very skeptical about the history as well…but one article said that Devaraya Wodeyar is the king of Nagamandala of the Mangalore dynasty ..which also I wasnt sure (I googled to cross check what the guide said) .so I left it at that..there was a mutt close by which was closed..maybe they had some literature ..I went there in April ..it wasnt so bad then ..need to create tags ..maybe dakshin karnataka

  2. Indrani 15 May, 2008 at 20:46 Reply

    Informative write up with so many beautiful pictures. And you meeting Chandra the waiter from Chennai… what a coincidence both of you meeting there.
    I remember reading in one of your earlier posts about you meeting your old classmate.
    You travel so much that you keep bumping in to someone or the other. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I am 16 May, 2008 at 03:57 Reply

    Nice trip… I mean everytime I read your posts am on a trip myself ๐Ÿ™‚

    but why is the place so silent? as if nobody was there other than u guys and your friend..

  4. Alok 16 May, 2008 at 10:01 Reply

    Hey, that was wonderful long write up. It didn’t take much time for me to recall my trip to there … you have worked on those beautifully snaps so consistently; specially liked the ‘bronze idol’.

    Have a great day ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. indicaspecies 16 May, 2008 at 19:00 Reply

    With your narration, I have a new perspective of this Temple which I have visited quite a few times. Thanks. The journey to Moodbidri from Mangalore through beautiful scenery is as interesting as the Thousand Pillar Temple. Lovely pictures. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. priyank 17 May, 2008 at 08:54 Reply

    One of your best posts Luck. The opening paragraph is very poetic and I liked the flowing narration of the 1000 pillar temple ๐Ÿ™‚

    Look at the picture of the lady walking next to the pillars. For her, walking next to a historical site on her way to the market, this must be a daily affair!

  7. backpakker 17 May, 2008 at 19:30 Reply

    S.Ghosh – welcome to backpakker and Im glad you liked the post.I do hope you get to go there

    rakii – Thanks for your kind comment and welcome to backpakker.The pic of the sunset was shot in karwar

    Sahasi – Thats a very nice thing to say..thank you . Im glad you suggested kaidala..it was a great trip

    Indrani – Now that you say it, I do agree that this is a coincidence..but such meetings make the journey more interesting

    I am – I enjoy your company as well..am glad you liked the trip..do join me again whenever you have the time..guess the town is asleep after a heavy lunch

    Alok – Thanks..I didnt however work on the pics ..only cropped a couple..have a great weekend

    Prajyot -Thanks for your comment and welcome to backpakker..I did visit your blog and its very interesting as well..I will for sure return again

    Deepak -Thats a great obseravtion from you and thank you for it..welcome to backpakker and am glad you liked the post

    Celine – The journey is very beautiful..and I would love to know your perspective of this basadi

    Priyank – Thanks ..I was writing this piece for a magazine ..so was trying to sound good ๐Ÿ™‚ and that lady for sure is not going to the market ..she was travelling with me
    to Sringeri..she is my mother ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. indicaspecies 18 May, 2008 at 23:14 Reply

    What I meant to say is that I have your opinion of the place from you. Now that I am here, I read your post again and allow me to add some more comments.

    The Manastambha that you have referred to is a pillar, a type that is found in almost all Jain temples. I believe it is a Jain tradition to keep one such pillar outside the main entrance and is symbolic of the visitor shedding pride before entering the place of worship.

    Very close to Moodabidri there is a place called Konaje Kallu (stone), a granite monolith with twin peaks. It is said that there are caves in the interiors of that area, and some sages live in there near a small shrine. I’ve passed by Konaje Kallu a few times, but not explored the place. The next time am in Mangalore, I intend to do so.

    – celine

  9. Aaarti 20 May, 2008 at 14:37 Reply

    Wowwie, never been to this place, but have heard of moodabadri.. think gramma n all buys flowers there when we used to go by car…

    And is that Bhudda also from there??super cool…

    you and mom went is it?

  10. backpakker 20 May, 2008 at 16:13 Reply

    Celine – Thanks for the information..I did read it myself in one of the websites..The caves sound like a place that needs to be visited for sure..Its always nice to read another traveller’s views on a particular destination..thats what i meant

    Anil – Thanks..sometimes spirituality is best experienced that way ๐Ÿ™‚

    Aaarti – amma, appa and I were going to sringeri for amma’s 60th birthday when we stopped by at the basadi..dad was tired so ma came with me..it seems like the cradle of jain civilisation ..read to read and see more places there


  11. Shantanu 20 May, 2008 at 19:40 Reply

    Wow! That was an amazing photo-essay. All these places are hidden gems, unknown to the world outside. We need to get better at marketing these sites at least within our own country. The cities have now lost all their heritage buildings beneath the steel and glass structures.

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